Photographer Nicki Sebastian recently moved from Brooklyn to L.A., which may or may not have made us cry. She’s easily one of the funniest people we know, with the best eyeliner to boot. Here, she shares her tried-and-true tips, along with the makeup that made it through the NYC triathlon (!) and a hilarious secret ritual she only does behind closed doors…
Do you wear makeup?
Yes! I love products, I love trying them, I love collecting them. I wish I could be one of those people who just rolls out of bed and goes outside, but I like my things. I’m never not wearing a cat eye, which I’ve done since eighth grade. It’s a little embarrassing to admit that, but if it ain’t broke… At this point, it’s become part of my face. I usually rotate products and try new things, but for liner I always use the Revlon Colorstay 16-hour Eyeliner in Black-Brown. I’ve literally run marathons (and one triathlon) in my eye makeup and the Revlon made it through.
Since you’re so practiced, what are your tips for applying eye makeup?
It’s muscle memory now; I could probably put it on with my eyes closed. My biggest tip is that it’s all about drawing little strokes and then connecting them. Also, you can’t be afraid to go very close or even into your lash line. After I put on my liner, I use L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Mascara in Carbon Black. It’s wonderful for all-over application, detail work, lower lashes. I’ve tried everything and I still go back to the drugstore one. It’s really the best.
What about other types of makeup?
For my face, I use Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue in Ginger. I’ve tried a million foundations and tinted moisturizers, and this one is the best for moisture and coverage. Because I’m a mom who doesn’t sleep, I have major dark circles and I use Bare Minerals Stroke of Light eye brightener. I apply it in a little upside-down triangle, which has changed my whole game. I also use Clinique Chubby Stick Sculpting Highlighter along my cheekbones. It’s the perfect amount of shimmer without looking like you stepped out of a 90’s Lisa Frank ad. Because I always do a dark eye, I keep the lip neutral.
When did you first discover beauty products?
I grew up mostly with my dad, who’s a musician, and even though he was great about letting me experiment with my look, he was clueless about teaching me to do things like shave my legs or apply makeup. There was no formal instruction in the household. I remember once I was at a friend’s house, and it was the first time I tried eyeliner — white eyeliner. Something clicked. I remember wearing it to school the next day. I don’t think I got any compliments, in fact someone may have asked what happened to me, but I noticed there was a marked difference in the way people regarded my overall look. Sassy, YM, Jane magazines — those became my bibles. Ever since then, I’ve been a makeup marketer’s dream.
Have you ever had any regrettable beauty moments?
The year before I started wearing makeup, I got a horrendous bowl cut. I saw a photo of a career-focused woman in the JCPenney catalog, who had an awesome Linda Evangelista look. I took it to my dad’s barber and said, “Can you do this to me?” He very confidently started cutting away, and I got a big old mushroom cut. So after that, I went in the opposite direction and started feminizing my routine.
Do you ever change things up for special occasions?
I tend to wear the same look every single day. I even did my usual makeup for my wedding! But this reminds me of a story. Years ago, on our third or fourth date, my now-husband Roni and I went to a New York Knicks game. I thought I would get super fangirl and show him how I can go to sporting events. I bought a whole orange-and-blue outfit, including striped athletic socks. I also wore blue eyeshadow. It was a bold move for an early date. He didn’t say anything to me then, and we obviously kept dating and went on to become much more serious. But years later, he was like, “Do you remember that outfit??” I don’t know what I was thinking! We still look back on that and laugh.
How do you groom your brows?
Because I do such a bold eye, I fill in my brows to balance it out. I use the Anastasia Brow Wiz in Taupe, which is slightly lighter than my natural color. It’s a tiny, tiny pencil, and I use little strokes to fill them in. Then I use Glossier Boy Brow in Blond to shape them, and I swear it adds brows to my brows. My brows are victims of middle and high school over-plucking, and this stuff plumps them up.
You’ve been a serious athlete for much of your life. What’s your favorite form of exercise?
I’ve been a long distance runner since 8th grade, but I don’t run the same distances I used to. Since I had Cami, it’s hard to find the time to fit in 20-mile runs. But I do still run regularly, and will mix it in with my gym and barre classes. I like Bar Method and Pop Physique. Roni covers dad duty so I can fit in workouts a few times a week. Running helps with my anxiety and with transitions, like our recent move across the country. If I’m not breaking a sweat a couple times a week, I feel too high strung and wound too tightly. Exercise really alleviates my tension.
Do you have any major beauty inspirations?
I am mildly — no, wholly — obsessed with Kristen Wiig. For me, I see beauty in people who are unapologetically themselves. I’m drawn to people who are really funny, and I appreciate a crude and crass female. And I just think Kristen is the most gorgeous human being. She uses her whole body in her humor. Any hairstyle she has, I want.
Do you have any favorite rituals?
Once a week, I’ll go into the bathroom and close the door, so nobody can bother me, cat included. Now that we have a tub big enough to fit me, I’ll pour in some Aura Cacia Calming Lavender Foam Bath, put on my Aesop Parsley Seed Mask, slap on some Crest Whitestrips and pour a glass of white wine. I sit in the bath and drink my wine through the Whitestrips, which probably negates the effects of them, but oh well. It helps me reset.
How do you care for your hair?
After having a kid, I had massive postpartum hair loss, which was so alarming. People don’t talk about it that much, and I didn’t know it was a thing. My entire hairline faded. It was awful. I used to have thick hair, and now it’s a whole new head of hair. I frantically ran to my colorist, Chelsea at Pickthorn Salon, who recommended the supplement Viviscal. It’s made a world of difference for me. My head is now full of baby hairs, but they’re growing at a rapid rate.
What other products do you use?
I love Pomsmooth shampoo and conditioner. I can’t say everything I use is 100% organic, but I like that the Pomsmooth is free of parabens, sulfates, and lots of things I can’t pronounce. I need as much volume as I can, so after I shower, I use Living Proof Full Thickening Mousse, which I love so much I always keep an extra bottle in the house. Next, I blow dry it to around 75% dry, combing through with my fingers. Then I divide it into two sections like pigtails and clip it back into two buns. I’ll get Cami ready for school, and just when we’re about to head out, I’ll unclip them and have beachy waves. I try really hard not to wash my hair every day, so on the off days, I use Sachajuan Volume Powder. It’s technically for volume, but it works better than any dry shampoo. I spray my roots, then brush it through. It’s the only product I’ve ever tried that lets me go two or three days without washing.
What is your typical nighttime routine?
I’m so sad to admit that I don’t have a healthy nighttime routine. When Cami goes to bed, I crack open a bottle of Cava, which I always keep in the house. Roni and I will order in or make something, and then I usually spend the night editing photos. I’ll be looking at a screen until I close my eyes, which is something I really want to change. Sometimes Roni and I will break out the Dub Smash. I have to twist his arm, but then he gets into it.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Peanut Butter M&M’s. I keep a bag in my bedside drawer. I always eat them in bed, while watching Broad City. Roni hates it, but I love eating in bed. The problem is, I just don’t have an off button when I eat them. I can’t tell when I’m full. I’ve also convinced myself there’s some protein in them because of the peanut butter.
How do you approach beauty with a young daughter?
Cami’s definitely picked up on her mommy’s makeup routine. She has a recent obsession with “chopstick” (ChapStick), which I hope never changes. I haven’t yet outwardly said, “Makeup isn’t necessary, it’s a playful supplement, and it doesn’t mask who you really are.” But I think she’s picked up on it from my body language. She always qualifies her “chopstick” application by saying, “Don’t worry, Mommy, it’s just for decoration.”
What do you want Cami to learn about beauty as she grows older?
My father is a musician and he taught me how to listen — to hear a beat in seemingly mundane things. I still tap my feet to dripping water, my car’s turn signal, or even the sound of our coffee maker in the morning. I want Cami to have a similar upbringing, in that she learns to see beauty in countless forms — in sensations, experiences, moments, people’s quirks, things that don’t fit into any societally-dictated definition of beauty. I’m trying to facilitate this by exposing her to as many cultural resources as I can, and by always reminding myself to slow down, listen and ask questions when I’m with her. What does she see in that cloud formation? Why does she think the artist painted the canvas blue? Where does she think that ladybug is going? Beauty is relative, and it’s up to Cami to define it for herself — I just want to be there to open up her world as much as I’m able to.
Last but certainly not least: What is your overall beauty philosophy?
I never want to give up the kid in me. I sound like Elf when I say this, but I love laughing. I love surrounding myself with people who make me laugh, because that helps me feel beautiful. I also try to stay true to who I am. There’s this Martha Graham quote I’ve always hung onto, where she says, “There is only one of you in all of time, your expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.” If you think about it that way, you have to put as much of yourself out into the world as possible. I think that’s a beautiful way of thinking. Whenever I get slightly off track with insecurities or comparisons or shoulds, I bring myself back to that quote. I have a responsibility to the world to live out my life as me, and I try to apply that to whatever I do.
Thank you so much, Nicki! We miss you!